The Giller Prize was founded in 1994 by Jack Rabinovitch in honour of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller, who passed away from cancer the year before. The award recognized excellence in Canadian fiction - long format or short stories - and endowed a cash prize annually of $25,000.00, the largest purse for literature in the country.
The launch of The Giller Prize coincided with a growing recognition of Canadian authors and literature both at home and abroad. With such acclaimed writers as Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and Mordecai Richler winning honours and accolades around the world, the popularity of Canadian literature has continued to flourish and there was a need for recognition in Canada.
The Giller Prize, along with many other awards that came before and after, is in large part responsible for this explosion of talent and exposure. More than 2.5 million Giller-nominated books were sold in the first 10 years of the prize. Over $60 million dollars in book sales to date have been generated as a direct result of the prize. The Scotiabank Giller Prize has so far endowed nearly half-a-million dollars to Canadian writers from coast to coast.
In 2005, The Giller Prize teamed up with Scotiabank to create The Scotiabank Giller Prize. It is the first-ever co-sponsorship for Canada's richest literary award for fiction. Under the new agreement, the purse doubled, growing to $70,000 with $50,000 going to the winner, and $5,000 being given to each of the four finalists.